All posts by reneeinnd

Good Deals

Our grey cat has decided that her favorite cat toy is a crumpled up piece of yellow, 5 X 7 note paper. It has just the right heft and battability.  She swats the balls back to me when I toss them to her, and they are easy for her to carry around the house in her mouth.  She loves the sound as I crumple up the paper, and positions herself in ready position to shag the balls I throw. Who needs fancy cat toys? What a good deal!

Tell about some good deals you have found lately. What do your animals like to play with?


Storming the Bastille

I have had problems with insomnia since I was a child.  My current sleep pattern is to fall asleep easily, then wake up at about 3:00 am and not get to back to sleep until just before my alarm goes off at 6:30.

I know all the “sleep hygiene” and cognitive tricks for good sleep, but they often don’t work for me. I was gratified to read a recent New Yorker article on insomnia which described insomniacs’ cortisol levels  as so high as to look as though they are getting ready to storm the Bastille.

I know that anxiety and worry trigger the sympathetic nervous system to pump out high levels of chemicals which hinder sleep.  My anxiety and worry are all work related,  and I am hopeful that they will reduce over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, I think I will see if memorizing the lyrics to the Marseilles and repeating them over and over when I wake up at 3:00 will lull me to sleep once more.

How do you deal with insomnia? What puts you to sleep? What keeps you awake?

Small Accomplishments

Our son informed us this week that our 7 month old grandson was pulling himself up to standing on the living room furniture.  “He looks so proud when he does it!” son reported. Oh, to be so proud for such a small (but essentially huge), accomplishment.

What small accomplishments are you proud of? When can small be huge?


Just the Right Space

Last night Husband and I attended the local college Christmas concert featuring the band, choruses, community Choral Union,  and a small string group from Bismarck.  The highlight of the concert was Handel’s Messiah. It was wonderful.

Our college music department had a good reputation but fell on hard times a few years ago. They have repopulated the faculty with some really fine teachers. We also have a strong city music community,  and are blessed with very fine community vocalists and musicians.

The concert was not held in the cavernous college auditorium, but in a terrific space with to-die-for acoustics.  I refer to the Abbey Church connected to a Benedictine Abbey 20 miles to the east of us.  You can see part of the ceiling in the header photo. The church was built in 1906-1910 in the Bavarian Romanesque style.  They have a new pipe organ.

The sound was especially gorgeous for O magnum mysterium, a choral piece published in 1572 by Tomas Luis de Victoria.  The church provided just the right acoustic space that the piece was written for.  Look at the header photo and imagine how the sound goes up, fills the church, and then circles back to listeners’ ears from those round ceiling sections.

I remember when I was in the Concordia College concert band we had to play inside an enormous, concrete, sugar beet warehouse for the warehouse dedication in Moorhead, MN.  We played a Sousa march, and the place echoed so much that we had to play every note staccato. I can still hear the horrible echoes. Tonight was a delight.

What are your experiences with acoustics and sounds? What are good and not so good sound spaces you have encountered?

Disaster Averted

I got a family recipe from the wife of my German cousin Wilhelm. It is a traditional Christmas bread called Bremer Klaben. Petra speaks wonderful English, but her written recipe is, well, interesting.  It is ok that the ingredients like raisins and candied peel and flour are measured in grams. I have a scale that will do that for me. I really like cooking by weight, not volume.

The recipe calls for 60 grams of yeast.  I always assume a reference to yeast means granulated yeast. 60 grams of granulated yeast is about 1/3  of a cup. This only makes one medium-sized loaf of  bread, so I surmised that she was referring to cake yeast, not granulated yeast. The granulated equivalent of cake yeast is 4 1/2 teaspoons. Can you imagine what would have happened had I not made the proper conversion?  Disaster averted!

Tell about disasters you have averted (or not).


Rich Beyond Measure

I made broth last weekend.  It is the Brodo recipe from The Splendid Table with 9 lbs of turkey wings and 3 lbs of beef bones.  It simmers for 14 hours. It produces a couple of gallons of golden brown goodness. We use it all the time, so we try to always have some on hand.  We  consider ourselves rich as we put the broth containers in the freeze “This is wealth”, we say.  Who needs more things when you have broth?

We have much to be thankful for besides homemade broth.  We feel especially rich in good friends,  good coworkers,  and in our community as a whole.  In this season of rampant consumerism, I think it is good to consider all the things that contribute richness to our lives.

What makes your life a richer, more satisfying one?


You’d Better Not Pout

Much of my clinical work lately has been helping parents set limits with their children and take control of their homes. It is interesting how some parents have the knack, and others do not.  Many have tried spanking and harsh punishments and threats, and find they don’t work. Others have just given up, and let their children run wild.  I was a particularly well-behaved child, and my parents never spanked or yelled or used fear or intimidation.  I need to think more on how they did it.  This is not a new problem. I think every generation complains that children are getting worse and worse, and try innovative ways to get their children to behave.  Many of these ways involve trying to scare children into good behavior, especially in December.  So, take heed, naughty Baboons. Tonight is Krampusnacht!!

The Krampus is a Bavarian, Austrian, and central European figure who is said to visit homes on the Night of December 5. He was invoked to scare children into good behavior. He is hideous, with horns, and has a basket in which he carries away naughty children to  eat them, drown them, or take them to Hell.  The picture below is an example of a Krampus Card from the 19th century. Notice that it is the boy who is naughty and the girl who is good. I think this perpetuates stereotypes.

I had never heard of Krampus  until recently. They aren’t characters from northern Germany, where my family comes from.  My mother told me that that the Christ child would bring the presents when they were at church on Christmas eve.  How mild and comforting is that! (If any of you haven’t read David Sedaris’ 6-8 Black Men, you need to read it.)  Krampus parades are quite popular in Austria. You can see how terrifying they are in the video clip.

Belsnickel is another German character from Christmas who sort of combines St. Nick with the Krampus.  He was dressed in rags and fur, and carried a switch as well as a bag of goodies.  He arrived 1–2 weeks before Christmas, and he knew exactly which of the children had been naughty during the year.  He knocked on the door or window with his stick and the children either answered a question for him or sang some type of song.  In exchange, he tossed candies onto the floor. If the children jumped too quickly for the treats, they would end up getting struck with Belsnickel’s switch. He orginated in south-west Germany, and was brought to the US by German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Indiana.

It doesn’t seem that Europeans were the only ones who had trouble getting children to behave. I found this photo of Japanese folklore characters called Namehage, who go from house to house carrying knives on New Year’s Eve and ask if there are any naughty children inside. They are not that different than Krampus. They give the children lectures on how to behave.  I find them pretty scary. I find it even more interesting that they, too, come out at the same time in winter as Santa Claus, Krampus, and Belsnickel. Why?  What is so significant about that that time of year?

By Douglas P Perkins (Douglaspperkins (talk)) – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Scaring children into good behavior doesn’t work, especially if the scary characters only arrive in December.  I find that structure, consistency, parents getting off their phones, natural consequences, and positive praise work very well.  Daughter asked me yesterday “Do you remember when you cancelled my birthday party when I  got a C on a test when I was in Grade 5?”  There is a lot more to that story, but I told her that was unnecessarily harsh, and I know better ways to handle that now.  When will we ever learn?

What scared you as a child?  What is your parenting philosophy? How did your parents discipline? Did you worry that Santa might bring you coal?